It was a startling moment the first time someone uploaded a picture of me on Facebook and tagged it with my name.Â It wasn’t a very flattering photo, first of all, I never would have posted that picture anywhere publicly.Â ;)Â And it struck me quite suddenly that the web really is a two-way street – it’s not just what I say about me, it’s also what they say about me.Â You know, them, those other people out there.
Twitter lists are another example of this two-way street.Â The image above shows a word cloud of tags and phrases taken from twitter lists that other people have created and put me, @fleep, in.Â Â I should note that this is a doctored word cloud, if I’d left it at the true frequency, you wouldn’t be able to read anything but secondlife, edtech, education, virtualworlds, and cincinnati because those tags are by far the most common.
But I wanted to bring out the other words as well because they paint a broader picture of who and what folks on twitter think I am.Â It also better demonstrates how much CAN be known about a person when a bunch of disparate voices start chiming in and contributing what they know about someone.Â Some of the folks who know me on Second Life might not know I live in Cincinnati, just like some of the local people might not have known I was involved in Second Life.Â Put all their contributions together, however, and you (and they) can learn a lot more about me.
This is the basis for the reputation economy that’s coming – in the days ahead, your resume and your profiles and your website, all the things that you say about you, will matter a lot less than all the things that they say about you.Â You know, them, those other people out there.Â They will likely be much more verbose about you than you are about yourself, and they will come from all of the different spheres of your life – personal and professional, your private life and your work life, your social clubs and your work buddies, and yes, even people who don’t like you or what you believe in, your enemies and detractors.Â Â You will have much less control over what the world knows about you, because you have no way to control what everyone else says about you.
If you google for “reputation economy” you’ll see that it’s often applied in the context of companies needing to protect their reputations, but the same applies to individuals, too.Â Do you know what the web says about you?Â Beyond vanity-googling yourself, do you have google alerts set up to let you know when someone mentions your name?Â Trackbacks enabled on your blog?Â A saved twitter search of your @username?Â Are you checking out the twitter lists people are putting you on, and are they the kinds of lists you want to be on?
And if not, what should you, or can you, do about it?
The folks at WVXU posted the audio archive of the Impact Cincinnati show last week, but I forgot to post about it here!
In the WVXU studios with Chris Brewer of Northern Kentucky University
I’m a huge fan of WVXU, the local public radio and NPR station, so it was a real treat to go downtown, see the studio, and meet the people behind the voices I’ve listened to every day for years.Â The producer and the host were both terrific and helped put me at ease – I was nervous!
Here’s the blurb from their website describing the show:
Impact Cincinnati Archive Thursday, July 09, 2009
Topic: The advantages, and dangers, of social networking sites
If you have a Facebook, Twitter or MySpace account you’re not alone, millions of people now use these and other social networking sites, often revealing a surprising amount of personal information online.
University of Cincinnati Instructional & Research Computing department IT Analyst Chris Collins
Director of Online Technology for Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics, Chris Brewer
The toughest question came at the end – what impact do you think social media is going to have and sum it up in 2 minutes!Â That’s pretty hard to answer even in 2 hours, so that’s the answer I was least happy with, but overall it was a great experience.Â Â Thanks to Twitter friends @barbarakb, @CRA1G, @corcosman, @wjjessen, and others for giving feedback before and during the show – it looks like we broke their record for number of tweets during the program!
I started writing this post in 2008 but didn’t get it finished before the year ended, even with the extra second. In light of the subject, perhaps that is quite apropos.
Like most of you, I’ve been reading all of the end-of-year retrospectives and predictions posts, and scrolling through the “year in photos” or video clips or whatever, caught up in refreshing my memory about just how many things happened in 2008. Wars, elections, economic meltdowns, media shifts, massive natural and man-made disasters, and that’s not even including all my personal stuff. It was a crazy year no matter how you slice it!
And though it is.. overwhelming to absorb this barrage of our collective memories on the net, I do think there’s value to the tradition of reflecting on the year just past and the year ahead. If it’s honest reflection, and you or someone else learns from it, then there can never be too much of it so I refuse to apologize for the length of this post. =)
2008: The Year of Limits
In reflecting on 2008, my experience was one of recognizing “limits”. Some of them are absolute limits, but some of them are just current limitations that I know will change in the future. Some of them are artificial limits, too, and those seem to deserve special attention since it’s easy to make bad choices if you’re working with falsehoods.
The list below describes some of the limits I ran into in 2008…
1. The limits of American-style “free-market” capitalism
I won’t belabor the point, we’ve all heard plenty of analysis and finger-pointing, but I will repeat the headline from my initial blog post at the beginning of the end of the beginning of the crisis:
On the days when I feel most pessimistic, I think the TARP bailout is nothing more than a wholesale absconsion of our national treasury with perhaps more on the way. So far at least, the US government seems to be much more concerned about the troubles of our corporate citizens than the troubles of our human citizens. On my optimistic days.. I have the teensiest bit of hope that _someone_ _somewhere_ will have the will and the power to do what’s best for the people, not just what’s best for the corporations.
The economic problems have limited the options for many people I know – friends and relatives laid off, retirement nest eggs shrunk to nothing, people unable to sell or buy houses and get on with life. On a personal level, I haven’t felt this economically pinched in a long time. My modest university salary isn’t keeping up with the rate of change very well and in 2008 I began to really hit the limit of my budget in ways that cause me to question what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and how much I can scale back.
Of course, many people are in tight situations right now, that’s why they call it a recession! But it’s what choices you make when you start to hit those limits that define who you are as a person and as a people.Â The government (of the people, by the people, for the people) has choices, too. I guess we’ll see in 2009 what choices we all make in light of these new limits and I hope for all of our sakes that they turn out to be good choices.
2. The limits of American racism
Of all the limits on my list, this one felt really good to bump up against. I can’t say how immensely proud I am of my country for the results of the 2008 presidential election. I am relieved to know that the president-elect’s middle name is Hussein and his last name sounds like Osama, and he’s black, and spent some time living in a Muslim country, and grew up in a non “2 parent/2.1 kids” houseshold, and that none of these things kept him from being elected. Not that racism has ended by any means, but this was an example of its limits and it really does give me hope.
On the personal side, my 74 year old grandpa who still refers to people as “colored” from time to time, and who has been a staunch Republican voter all of his life, actually voted for a black Democrat. Yes Virginia, hell really did freeze over! I can’t take 100% credit for this change of course, but we had a lot of downright difficult and uncomfortable conversations about race, so this year’s election felt like a personal victory as much as a national milestone.
3. The limits of the American educational system and limits to learning online
It’s possible I am living in a concrete-reinforced, super-duper-thick, no-sound-enters-or-escapes echo chamber, but it seems that everywhere I turn, everyone from _everyone_ is convinced that the American educational system is in desperate need of a massive, major overhaul. In my own neck of the woods, Ohio is in the process of implementing a state-wide university system, several education related organizations that are funded by the state are being abolished or merged, and a couple of universities including my own are switching from quarter systems to semesters (not as simple as it may sound and more expensive than you might think).
So change is happening already in a pretty big way, but I’m not sure how much these changes will address some of the underlying problems. One of which, I am convinced, is a staggering lack of understanding about the power of current IT/web/net based technologies. There is increasing curiosity at all levels – thank goodness or I wouldn’t have a job! But from administrators to faculty to staff, I’m perpetually shocked by how little others use the web even for basic things,like as a reference system. Everyone now uses email, of course, and LMS adoption has increased tremendously in both breadth and depth of use, and the core university business and billing systems are state of the art, but the social media/personal empowerment side of the web doesn’t seem to have penetrated academia very much yet at all. You might be surprised how many faculty don’t know about using quotes in google searching, for example, or who don’t read the blogs of their peers from other institutions.
I find that pretty distressing for a lot of different reasons, not least of which because this lack of understanding really limits my choices as a student (or potential customer, if you prefer).
The first problem is that the thing I want to study not only doesn’t have its own discipline or recognized curriculum, most people aren’t even aware it exists! My area of study is the metaverse and I spend far more time trying to demonstrate that it is “real” (ie has real impact) and justifying why we should be studying it than anything else. What time I do get to spend on actual research doesn’t count towards tenure, and unfortunately, most of my output is in blog posts and wikis and PDFs and Second Life builds, and none of these things will get me a degree either. They aren’t “accredited” kinds of output.
The second problem is that even if I could find a good fit in a program, then what? Will I be able to bear sitting in a classroom with a bad teacher who regurgitates the text book and wants me to regurgitate it too? Will I be able to keep my trap shut when we all hand in our papers to the prof and learn nothing from each other instead of sharing them so we all learn more?
When I think of it, I tend to tell myself and others that I can’t find the time or money to go back to grad school right now (artifical limit, I’m sure I COULD if I were willing to radically alter my life), but the truth is something different: I can’t bear the thought of fitting my learning style back into that crummy old model when I’ve found something 1000000 times better – the entire web is my school, my laboratory, and my teacher. I would guess that in 2008 I read more reports, white papers, and peer-reviewed journal articles (and thousands of blog posts and news articles), attended more lectures by more world-class thinkers and teachers (and talked to them, individually!), and had more hands-on, active and engaging learning experiences than I have ever had in any other year of my entire life – in school or out. I also spent a heck of a lot of time reflecting on what I learned, sharing it with others, collaborating on shared learning experiences, and had a few pretty nice milestone publications of my own.
Everywhere I look, I’m butting up against limits. Limits of the existing system, limits to people’s understanding about what it is I want to study, limits in program and curriculum choices, personal limitations (financial, practical, selfishly wanting to learn MY way instead of THEIR way)..
Furthermore, despite the free and wonderful education I received from the intarnets this year, I also learned that there are limits here too. There are limits to how much information I can process, how many connections I can form, and how many channels of communication I can keep up with. There are absolutely, most definitely limits to how many emails I can process in a day. There are limits to how much I can learn on my own unaided by others. I often have questions, need help, need guidance, need mentoring, need direction. I know without a doubt my work and output would improve if I had a better foundational understanding of both the technology that makes the metaverse possible and the research that already exists about human behavior in online environments. I don’t for a second believe I can “master” this material all on my own, even with the tremendous resources the web offers.
And of all my learning experiences online this year, I’m perhaps most grateful for my experience with the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), because it _broke_ some (artificial) limits in my understanding about what a “class” is and could be, reinforced some limits I was aware of (how much info/connections/channels I could keep up with), and gave an example of how universities might overcome limits in how many students they reach.
Without a doubt, these limits are frustrating, but not altogether discouraging. It just means there’s much work to be done, and I sincerely hope decision makers at the institutional level are paying attention to technology, but at the same time, I also hope that those of us using and evangelizing technology are being honest about its limits even as we explore its promises.
And speaking of technology evangelism…
4. The limits of personal evangelism
My suitcases are tattered from so many cross-country flights here there and everywhere talking about Second Life, Web 2.0, and the emerging metaverse. I gave talks at conferences and workshops and lunches, to teachers, professors, administrators, instructional designers, businesses, entrepreneurs, laywers, government employees.. so many different sectors of society. What I’ve taken from all my days on the road is that there’s a real lack of perceived value and ROI. 1) People need to see more evidence that this technology is useful for accomplishing their goals before they will be willing to invest the time and resources it takes to get to successful implementation. 2) The technology itself must become cheaper and easier to use.
This is not revolutionary news, I know. But I’m reminding myself because as I mentioned above, I genuinely hope to do more research into those areas so that the next time I spend all day flying across the country just to give a two hour talk, I feel like it was really and truly worth the trip for me and the audience and the university that paid for me to do it.
I guess this means my “zealot phase” (and hopefully “self-righteous jerk phase”) is over for the moment. That isn’t to say that I’ve given up, but rather that I’ve learned the limits of what I, Fleep can do alone. I need to start leveraging my networks better and work in collaboration with more people instead of running myself ragged trying to do too much alone.
5. Limits of the Second Life platform and our current Metaverse
Of course, the job of evangelizing would be a lot easier if the thing itself were easier. Alas, we face some tough issues. The metaverse as a concept is mind-boggling for many, the best iteration of it at the moment (Second Life) is hard to use and has serious limitations, and everything else out on the horizon is still in alpha/beta phase.
I really can’t stress enough what an obstacle our current lack of.. vocabulary is. What is a virtual world? What is the metaverse? What the heck is Castranova talking about with all this synthetic stuff?
In its current context, the metaverse is a complex concept. For the purposes of this article, the definition in the Metaverse Roadmap will suffice: â€œIn recent years, the term has grown beyond Stephensonâ€™s 1992 vision of an immersive 3D virtual world, to include aspects of the physical world objects, actors, interfaces, and networks that construct and interact with virtual environments. . . . The Metaverse is the convergence of 1) virtually-enhanced physical reality and 2) physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either.â€
In short, we can imagine multiple and myriad digital mirrors of the real world existing alongside multiple and myriad digital worlds that do not represent the real world, all used for a variety of purposes, tied into a variety of communication methods, and populated by any user with Internet access, as well as a steady stream of data originating from objects and devices in the real world.
That’s awful! A mouthful of confusing stuff and I feel very disappointed in myself that I couldn’t find a better way to communicate it. That’s a limitation I (we) must break through in the coming years.
Beyond the limits of our terminology, there are serious limits with existing platform(s) that can’t be ignored either. I still believe that anyone interested in the metaverse must be in or at least paying attention to Second Life – Linden Lab’s platform and the OpenSim derivatives are the most promising metaverse project on the horizon, and perhaps more importantly, the people using, working, and playing in Second Life simply _are_ the vanguard.
But Linden Lab’s Second Life, and the alpha-stage OpenSim grids, are still extremely limited in their enterprise use. Whether the intention is to use it as a social or collaboration space, or as a modeling and prototyping space, or to explore the new frontiers of music and art made possible in these worlds – the platforms need a LOT of work across the board, from the GUI to reliability to providing access to other digital content. Sadly, after 5 years of being out of beta, Second Life’s group IMs still don’t work reliably.Â I can’t show a flash or .wmv movie in Second Life, can’t collaboratively access webpages and documents with others easily, and it takes forever and 50 steps to do something as simple as making a prim clickable to launch a webpage.
And those are the simplest technical limitations that need to be overcome. That’s not even getting into the wet, squishy world of legal, philosophical, and social questions: content creator rights, intellectual properly, who has jurisdiction, who governs these spaces, code as law, what’s happening with all of the data we generate from “living” in these spaces and how can we protect ourselves from its misuse, what are the social implications for communities moving to the metaverse, and on and on and on..
In other words, we have a LOT of work to do.
6. The limits of Will Wright
Yes, I’m sorry, this one gets a whole bullet point of its own. Do you have ANY IDEA how long I waited, and with how much _anticipation_ I waited for the release of Spore? (Many many years, and a lot, respectively.)
(Sorry, needed a little levity before tackling #7..)
7. The limits of life itself
In late 2007, we learned that my Dad (grandpa, actually, but my dad in all other ways)Â had stage-4 metastatic lung cancer that had already spread to his adrenal glands. By mid-2008, it had spread to his spine.Â Helping to take care of him through this battle with cancer has been excruciating and it affected every single day of the year for me.
I know that death is a part of life. I know that death is inevitable. I know that I am neither the first nor the last person to lose a parent or to lose a loved one to cancer. I know that some day I will die. I know all of these things, but I’ve never _felt_ them until now.Â In my heart, I know it’s a minor miracle that he’s survived more than a year past the initial diagnosis, and it’s a gift that we’ve had all this time to say goodbye, share memories, and adjust to the hard reality. But it has also irrevocably changed my sense of time. I see the limits it imposes on us all in the starkest of terms now.
This experience has also made me wonder how on earth people without families or support networks manage in the face of serious illness (something we’re all bound to face) because without a doubt, I have finally seen the limits of the American health-care system up close and personal.
Wow, what a wreck. I don’t even know where to begin. The absurdities of insurance claims and Medicare, Part-D and doughnut holes, hospital staff that don’t even put on clean gloves unless you ask them too, different doctors with different charts and lab results and patient information systems that don’t talk to each other, medication regimens that require a PhD and 50 gazillion bottles, refills, and dosages to keep up with, doctors prescribing medications that conflict with pre-existing orders… the list goes on and on and on and on. It’s insane. INSANE.
Our family care-team is made up of four intelligent, literate, capable people and we can’t really keep track of it all. The hoops are simply ridiculous, the cracks in the system are more like black holes, and for all the mistakes or near-mistakes we’ve caught, I fear to think of all the ones we didn’t. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my deep bitterness that the _only_ part of the American health-care system that appears to be using IT efficiently is the damned billing systems. Sharing information about the patient to improve care? That’s a spaghetti mess, but they can sure share information about how much it all costs!
Perhaps my viewing the year 2008 from this prism of limitations is all the result of Dad’s cancer; maybe it’s colored my view so much that limits are all I see at the moment. But I don’t really think so. When I look at what’s happening in a broader context, I see that the American economic, education, and health care systems aren’t the only large-scale systems and institutions that appear to be feeling the strain.
For one, the financial/economic crisis is definitely a global one. It’s not an indivual experience, or a national experience, it’s a global one. Even those who haven’t felt the pinch yet have certainly felt the fear.
For another, I believe wars and violence result when political systems fail. Mumbai. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Palestine, Georgia, and many more places besides, deaths caused by people killing other people, caused by the limits of our existing political institutions.
Human activity in combination with completely “natural” weather and geological phenomena are rapidly, and I mean RAPIDLY changing our environment. The very finite resources of the planet and the real consequences of natural disasters are absolute limits that we simply can’t afford to ignore. The earthquake in Sichuan, China killed almost 70,000 people. The Nargis cyclone in Myanmar killed almost 135,000 people. Predictions seem to indicate that more trouble is on the way, and for the most part, our individual, national, and global responses to these challenges have seem limited by disorganization, misinformation, and a terrible refusal to plan for the reality we all know is coming. It’s absurd. And frightening.
I should probably stop there, this post already turned into something of a monster and I could go on in this vein for quite a while. But the lingering question I have at the end of all this reflection is this:
Have we reached the limits of our patience with behaviors and systems that just plain don’t work anymore?
I sure hope so, because the upside, the real benefit to recognizing these limits, is the ability to leap into the paradigm-shift – and leap we must.
The parameters aren’t what you thought they were.
The rules of the game are changing.
The world of the 21st century is different than the world of the 20th.
The sooner we come to terms with it, the sooner we can start dealing with it. These limits – even the artificial ones – really need to, can, and must be addressed.
I don’t know if I’m up for all the challenges I see looming in the days ahead, with my work, my personal circumstances, with Dad’s cancer. I don’t know how to best prepare, either, but if I’m sure of anything after 2008, it’s that I don’t have a choice about it anymore. The changes are already coming too thick and too fast to ignore, best get with it, buckle down, and get ready.
(And 10 days after the new year, I finally get this posted.Â Hooray.)
I am so thoroughly disturbed by the current state of affairs in the US economy that I must put all political correctness aside for a moment and ask you, dear reader, for a reality check.
It appears that our government is about to take on a tremendous amount of debt by nationalizing private entities, buying trillions in bad debt, and by some accounts, taking on some 70% of the mortgages in the United States.
This is unprecedented. Cataclysmic. Terrifying.
I spent some time last night actually watching TV, something I do less and less of these days, catching up on a backlog of Tivo from the past week. I watched a bunch of news reports, pundits, and analysis of how and why this economic crisis has come to a head, what the government is doing about it, what those who have been reporting on the financial sector for 30 years think about it, and the whole time I’m thinking to myself, wow: I have absolutely no faith that anyone in the US government or otherwise actually knows what they are doing with regards to this imploding/exploding economic mess.
If you somehow aren’t following this, you should be. Every American citizen certainly should be, because we the American people are about to be saddled with TRILLIONS of dollars of more debt – and I cannot imagine how this won’t impact the rest of the world in some way – so you should be paying attention even if you aren’t in the US. Did I mention _trillions_ of dollars in new debt? I can’t really fathom a trillion dollars, personally, it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around billions of dollars. Here’s a quick primer, if you’re trying to catch up:
So, from what I can tell, the last 30 years of banking deregulation (i.e. relaxing the laws, standards, and oversight of what financial institutions and Wall St. investors are allowed to do), has led to ever larger financial institutions creating ever more complex financial “products” that have become so damned shady and complicated that even Wall Street itself doesn’t understand what they’ve gotten us all into.
You’d have to have been hiding under a rock to not know that a bunch of companies made a bunch of risky loans for people to buy houses they couldn’t really afford, and as the price of everything (especially energy) began to soar, a bunch of these people couldn’t afford to make the payments on their homes anymore. The companies that loaned them the money weren’t too worried, cause they’d “packaged” up big bunches of these loans and “sold” them to other companies and banks, who then themselves sold pieces of this debt to a bunch of other companies and banks, and so on and so on. And as more and more people stopped being able to pay their mortgages, more and more of these companies and banks were stuck holding the bag on all this debt that no one was paying on. This is the “Subprime Mortgage Crisis” that we’ve been hearing about all year.
Except it seems that the people in the US government and the geniuses on Wall St. either didn’t know or didn’t want to admit that these “packages” of defaulted loans had become so widely sold, traded, and mixed in with other stuff, that even big, stable, long term financial institutions and companies were in big trouble as more and more people became unable to pay for their houses. Suddenly the troubles of “Main Street” were wreaking havok on “Wall Street” and everyone began to panic. It got so bad, that big name companies that everyone thought were safe and stable started filing for bankruptcy and begging other big banks to buy them, it got so bad, that people and companies began to take their money out of money market accounts and other funds and that caused even MORE people to panic.
And so, in the span of a week, the Bush Administration’s people have stepped in and said, don’t freak out, we, the US government, will take over some of these failing companies, and we, the US government will insure your money market funds, and we, the US government will take on the debt of all these houses that no one is paying for anymore. And Wall Street rallied at this news on Friday and had a big party that Uncle Sam was going to swoop in and save the day.
… From what I can tell, this is the craziest, scary economic situation of our lifetimes. The financial health of the United States of America hasn’t been this jeopardized since the Great Depression.
Now one of the analysts on PBS said that you don’t stop to fix the leaks in your roof when the hurricane is still going strong, you just do what you have to do to survive the hurricane, and you fix the structural damage when it’s over. I think that’s true. I think if the government had not stepped in, goodness knows how far reaching this crisis might have become, it’s truly terrifying to think about, particularly considering how much US debt is owned by foreign investors.
It seems to me that this means that the US government is going to make damned sure that the free market capitalists don’t loose THEIR homes and savings and retirement, and the ordinary people who have already lost their homes and savings and retirement are just out of luck. For all of my living memory, the REPUBLICAN PARTY has stood for business, for smaller government, for telling regulators to butt out of what business does, let the all-knowing all-wise market sort out the winners and losers. And when they were winning, all those profits, all that money, was THEIR money and the government shouldn’t tax it, shouldn’t take any of it, the American people as a whole shouldn’t share any of it, because it was the gutsy risk-taking of the capitalists that led to the profit in the first place, and the market rewards winners and punishes losers. Not two weeks ago I saw a political ad for John McCain talking about making the tax cuts to the wealthy that the Bush Administration enacted early on permanent.
Except now, when the all-knowing, all-wise market started doing exactly that, started punishing the risk takers who were taking TOO MUCH RISK, now the REPUBLICAN PARTY is saying wait, hold on, the American people, the US government (you know, the ones who didn’t get to share in the wealth cause it was all YOUR money), well, we’ll take on a bunch of your debt. We’ll take on a bunch of the risky crap that you’ve gotten yourselves into. Hell, we’re even going to take over some of your companies. And the free market capitalists are saying HALLELUJAH, yes please, please take all this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. PLEASE TAKE IT. The financial press is using words like toxic, poisonous, and radioactive to describe this debt. The wonky economic analysts in their rumpled suits and crooked ties and silver hair, the people who have been studying this stuff for their whole professional lives admit that even they don’t understand exactly how “toxic” this toxic stuff is.
And me and you, Joe, we’re about to get handed that bag of toxic stuff.
My undergraduate degree is in Political Science. I (sadly) didn’t focus on economics as much as I wish I had, and I can’t claim to understand everything that’s going on right now if even the pros don’t have a clue, but I just have to put this out there, publicly, for my own conscience.
The REPUBLICAN PARTY, representing free-market capitalists, has largely had their way in terms of economic policy, they have successfully gutted many of the laws put in place after the Great Depression, and they have successfully protected the profits – the sickeningly vast profits – of a very, very tiny percentage of very, very wealthy Americans.
I’ll sit tight with everyone else while the hurricane is upon us, but when it’s over, we have a LOT more than just repairing the roof to do. I personally know people in my family, people in my social circle, who are facing homelessness and dire economic circumstances. I personally know people who got a few thousand dollars into credit card debt (and I’m talking $4-5000 range) who then had something bad happen, an illness, a job loss, who were unable to get out from under it and are struggling to just plain feed their kids. And I didn’t see Uncle Sam coming to bail THEM out.
I am angry. Afraid. Worried. And I genuinely believe that the REPUBLICAN PARTY has quite literally wrapped themselves in the American Flag and used every dirty trick in the book to keep the average, church-going American distracted by issues like guns, abortion, and gay marriage so they can rob our country blind. And they seem to be getting away with it.
When does it stop? When does the party of “Country First” actually start putting the country – the whole country, not wealthy investors – first?
I do not understand how any sane person could vote for John McCain in this election. I really don’t. I don’t know how any sane person could be watching this and not see the horrible irony of wealthy “government keep your hands off” investors begging the government to take on their private debt, so much money than I can’t even fathom it in any real sense. 35% more than the entire US defense budget. 4/5ths of the output of our entire national economy in debt.
It’s staggering. Just plain staggering.
And the last time I looked, this is what CNN’s homepage looked like. The only indication of this on the front page? A tiny link on the right.
And on that depressing note, I’m off to finish laundry and go to my grandpa’s house. He grew up in just-post depression America, and I hope he has some damned good advice for me.
Thanks to Kevin Jarrett for this tip! (PS Kevin was just featured on an NPR segment about tech in schools! Listen here!)
WHERE WE STAND: America’s Schools in the 21st Century, premiering
Monday, September 15, 2008 at 10 p.m. on PBS, presents a frank
evaluation of our educational system’s strengths and weaknesses.
Hosted by Judy Woodruff, Senior Correspondent for The NewsHour with
Jim Lehrer, the documentary will visit schools throughout Ohio, an
important swing state that represents a range of socioeconomic and
geographic school districts. The program will feature schools in urban
Cincinnati, suburban Columbus, and rural Belpre.
But there’s more! Educators from around the nation are going to gather on Thursday of next week to discuss the documentary in Second Life. Kevin writes:
As a fitting follow-up activity, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) will be hosting a free â€œEducatorâ€™s Socialâ€ in Second Life on Thursday, September 18th at 9:00 pm Eastern (6:00 pm Pacific). Educators from around the country (and the world) will gather at ISTEâ€™s Second Life Island â€œCampfire Areaâ€ (http://slurl.com/secondlife/ISTE%20Island/213/150/22) to discuss the documentary. Iâ€™ll be moderating one of the discussion groups but there will be several others. If you have a Second Life avatar, please consider joining us!
(This post is about the Massively Multiuser Online Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 1900 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)
Because I was so busy with SLEDcc 2008 and SLCC 2008, I have already gotten behind in the Connectivism course! I’m trying to play catch up now, and so far I’ve done some Connecting but not much Learning.
1. The Second Life Cohort of the Connectivism course held their first meeting yesterday, where I discovered I’m not the only one who is feeling behind and a bit overwhelmed and confused. Transcript here.
2. I added myself to the Googlemap for the course.. wow, people from all over the world! Sadly absent is much participation in Africa, I find that depressing.
4. I registered and added my profile to the CCK08 Moodle site, and scanned some of the introductory posts. I don’t feel like adding to the din in there though, I think I’ll just stick to my blog for now unless there’s a compelling reason or requirement to participate in the Moodle? (I’ve become anti-course-management-system these days.)
Pre-Week 1 Homework: Introduction
I’m currently located in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I work at the University of Cincinnati in the UCit Instructional & Research Computing department, focusing on teaching and learning about emerging technologies, social networks, and virtual worlds (particularly Second Life). I’m interested in the Connectivism course for several reasons – I want to see a MMOC in action, learn where a mass participation learning experience works and where it fails, and because I am intrigued by the concept of knowledge existing in external networks. I don’t feel I have a very good grounding in many of the other learning theories that came before, and I don’t know where the boundaries of Connectivism exist, but I want to know more.
The course will be a success for me if I a) connect on a deeper level with the members of the Second Life cohort of the course, b) gain a better understanding of the connectivist theory of learning and understand clearly how it is different than behavioralist/constructivist theories, and c) learn to navigate the complex network of websites, blogs, discussions, videos, and other web and virtual world artifacts I see forming in this course without feeling lost or overwhelmed. I hope by the end that I adjust without feeling left behind.
Random information about me: I logged onto my first online social network in 1994 fresh out of high school, and though I quickly moved from ISCABBS to many different BBS systems, I’ve been participating in and moderating online communities for all of my adult life. I believe the online communities, forums, and social networks I have participated in has made up the bulk of my “real” education – my university experience, even in the best of classes, simply doesn’t compare with all of the learning, sharing, and knowledge acquisition that happened for me on the net. It has been a transformative experience, one I want to share and extend to others.
In other words, I’m curious to see if I may be part of the first generation who could be learning in a connectivist way. It certainly seems – at first blush – to resonate with my experience more than other learning theories have. I guess we’ll see!
Left, right, center, confused, mainstream media, international – one of the wonderful things about Twitter is that you get a truly bizarre cross-section commentary from anyone with a Twitter account.
I’ve been addicted to watching the scroll this morning, in fact I haven’t done much else. I haven’t turned on the TV even once, I haven’t yet read a newspaper, I haven’t gotten information from anywhere about Palin but from Twitter. And the emerging picture is.. fascinating.
Shock & Awe(ful)
Predictably, McCain supporters are jazzed and crowing about her rock-solid Christian, pro-life, gun-totin, positions, while Obama supporters are laughing at what appears to be a completely ridiculous choice. Non-political junkies appear to be confused since they’ve never heard of her till yesterday (or this morning), international commentary seems decidedly anti-Palin, and above all, everyone is shocked and a bit confused by the choice and drowing in “Little Known Fact” jokes, a take off the “Chuck Norris” internet meme. If you don’t know what that’s about, google it. Here’s a sampling from the last 10 seconds:
psicocaccola: La Stampa abbocca alla copertina finta di Vogue sulla Palin: storia e pdf solo per oggi http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/1133195/32917548
less than 10 seconds ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
bluenc: BlueNC | Sarah Palin’s Screen Test With Ted Stevens: John McCain knew he had to put Sarah Palin on.. http://tinyurl.com/6f934p (expand)
1 minute ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
radiogretchen: Really bummed not to have Tim Russert interview Sarah Palin tomorrow morning.
1 minute ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
shawnr: Palin was born in Sandpoint, ID. Strategy: McCain locks up the Idaho-Alaska vote, securing much of the Total Nutjob wing of the GOP.
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
Shripriya: OMG -Palin is sitting on a huge bear http://snurl.com/3lb9b (expand) McCain seriously thinks women will just see the choromosomes and vote? Insulting
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
huffpost: is still trying to find the Sarah Palin hook that makes her a good choice for Miss Dairy Festival, let alone VP of the USA -JackiSchechner
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
aefoley: Little Known Fact: Chuck Norris’s Second Life character is Sarah Palin.
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
amandaelend: Palin is still nursing her 5-month old son with Down Syndrome
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
squeezyb: @bill_beal butting in-Tina Fey, who looks like Sarah Palin, plays Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Kenneth is the NBC page on the show. Who is Cleo?
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
jbum: Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin and Tina Fey have never been seen in the same location: http://tinyurl.com/6jzaav (expand)
2 minutes ago Â· Reply Â· View Tweet
RedheadWriting: I’m a Conservative and I’m OK – http://tinyurl.com/6mdu5z (expand) More thoughts on Sarah Palin, John McCain and props to @myklroventine!
In all of this link surfing and rant reading, I’ve been specifically looking for reactions from younger people. I personally think this election may see the largest youth voter turn-out of any election in American history. Whether left or right, younger voters seem highly engaged this time around, and the availability of information, news, discussion forums, and videos on the internet is transforming and informing a new generation of voters. Increasingly, I am seeing more political commentary from young bloggers, tweeters, and party activists.
and from @lindsaypw (college student): Palin, shes anti-choice, homophobic, elitist, inexperienced, likes guns, hates wildlife, has her own scandal, and won a beauty contest.
and from @Bags1: Anyone else confused about Palin?
Anyone else have good examples of young bloggers/tweeters responding to the Palin pick?
Identity Politics & Misogyny
Which leads me to my next thought, that this has truly been and still is the most interesting election of my lifetime, particularly in terms of identity politics. The right has long accused the left of being nothing more than a coalition of various identity groups banded together with no coherent, cohesive theme. This criticism rang true in the 80s and 90s, but seems less so over time – and makes McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin even more surprising to me, as it seems to be a move to energize the various identity groups on the RIGHT: women, evangelicals, pro-life, 2nd amendment supporters. Has the Republican Party fallen to scrambling for identity coalitions now that the Democratic Party has emerged with a strong policy theme grounded not on identity politics but by political ideals? Very interesting.
The cynic in me says that while racism and misogyny still run strong in this country, misogyny continues to be the stronger of the two. If I think back to the small town where I grew up, where prejudice and “traditional” values still hold sway, I imagine that the vast majority don’t vote at all, those who do wouldn’t vote for a “damned librul” if their life depended upon it, and whatever tiny, miniscule fraction that might have been on the fence certainly can’t and won’t vote for a woman, even if she’s a “babe”, as Rush Limbaugh described her.
In just one day of reaction, Palin’s choice has caused the internet to erupt in oversexualized references to her appearance, questions about her returning to work 3 days after giving birth to a baby with special needs, and her opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. McCain’s choice has thrown the doors wide open on some of the most contentious gender issues of our time, just when the furor over Hillary was about to die down following the Democratic National Convention. Political commentator QueenofSpain thanks McCain on her blog, saying:
Although maybe once the evangelicals catch wind of her balancing work and family, and people become outraged that she is a woman running for officeâ€¦maybe then we can have a real discussion in her partyâ€™s base about those â€œfamily valuesâ€ they like to push. Maybe then it will be â€œokâ€ since she isnâ€™t a baby-killing lesbian hippie.
So thanks John McCain, thanks for picking a woman as your running mate so America can (once again) have these discussions.
I’m not so sure I’m thankful. I’m afraid that images like the one from Valleywag will simply yank us back three decades in the debate about women in positions of power, where sex overshadows qualifications, and cynical jokes elicit laughter that underscores the most hateful and subversive kinds of misogyny.
[/caption] Photoshopped image of Sarah Palin posted on internet-gossip site Valleywag, ironically submitted by a woman.
If McCain had chosen a well-qualified woman, a substantial leader with proven experience, who had already been vetted, who had already faced the kinds of tawdry and misogynist undercurrents in American political culture, like Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Olympia Snow, Elizabeth Dole, or Christie Todd-Whitman, then perhaps it might have re-opened a good conversation about women in high office. Instead, I think I agree with Newsweek that Palin has been set up for failure – and as much as she represents all women, she sets us all up for failure, too.
I no more want to see Palin become a target of hateful, misogynist mockery than I did Hillary (though I was not a Hillary supporter), even if I vociferously disagree with her politics.
No, I think this was an ill-fated choice that ultimately backfires on many levels – but especially for women.
Virtual World News alerted me to Gartner’s latest “Emerging Technology” Hype Cycle analysis, and I was a bit surprised to see where they placed public virtual worlds, particularly in relation to Web 2.0 and wikis.
Gartner shows wikis far out in front of Web 2.0 generally and Web 2.0 and public virtual worlds neck and neck. I don’t think I agree with that analysis if applied to an educational context. Based on my experience in the field, I’d have put Web 2.0 and wikis much closer together and before the peak of Inflated Expectations, and put virtual worlds even further behind. I’ve added some other educational technology markers for comparison (again, this is based on my own “anecdata”).
Where would you put these markers based on your experience?
RezEd Interview with James Paul Gee
If you’re involved in education and virtual worlds and haven’t yet joined RezEd, take a minute to do so now. They’re creating not only a really terrific community, but also a very rich repository of resources, information, interviews, and best practices. SLEDcc has a group that you can join, but I’ve been very impressed with the quality of their podcasts and best practices guides.
James Paul Gee - image courtesy http://rezed.org
This week they interviewed James Paul Gee, author of the seminal book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (a must read). In the interview, he discusses how video games and virtual worlds can be used to help address some of the major deficiencies in modern educational systems – letting learners produce the lesson content instead of just “taking it in” and how virtual worlds help kids develop complex literacies through experiential and situated learning. Good stuff!